“On April 22, 1892, thirteen initial members organized the WSTC with a modest goal of renting ground on Central Park West between 88th and 89th Streets,” said Hunt, who said a membership at the time required a $10 initiation cost, $10 annual fee, and the ability to play a good game of tennis.
The weekend event featured ten-cent cocktails, and some participants even dressed in 1890s-style costumes and masks. John Morelli’s costume was influenced by H.W. Slocum, Jr, whose photo hangs in the clubhouse’s “Hall of Champions.”
“When I was a young teenager, I came here with my uncle, father and grandfather to watch the U.S. Open matches,” he said. “I saw the members frolicking in their games on the lawn and laughing, dining, and drinking on the terrace, and it was my great fantasy to be a member here.”
The menu included dishes that were popular at the turn of the century.
“Executive Chef Alexei Nikov and I read tons of articles on early 1900s food styles, finding everything from old hotel and old cruise line menus,” said dining room manager Christopher Romita, who hinted some of the dishes might appear on the club's regular menu in the future. “Parisian cuisine was rising in the late 1800's, giving the North American coast a new flavor.”
The event was distinguished by “sharing a rich history with new members who are embracing it and making new memorable memories,” said Martin. “I am grateful for the wonderful friends I have made, and I love how my children and grandchildren can also enjoy the club.”
“I remember Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert sitting on the hood of a car on Tennis Place during the mid-1970s U.S. Open,” recalled member Ted Abruzzo. “Also, Geraldine Ferraro in her tennis whites with her Secret Service detail in tow giving a press conference during the 1984 presidential campaign.”
The West Side Tennis Club was located on 117th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Heights and at 238th Street and Broadway before members purchased a Forest Hills plot from the Russell Sage Foundation for $77,000 in 1913.
Development began on the clubhouse, which was designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, and then the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, designed by Kenneth Murchison, in 1923 after the club acquired additional land.
For some members, the 125th anniversary is another reminder of the club’s growth.
“I have seen the club through tough financial times, but members have graciously put forth their money and ideas to keep the club going,” said Jackie Mackool. “The stadium is enriched once again with tournaments and concerts which have helped the club and the community.”
Galina Sokolovskaya praised the club’s accommodations.
“I immigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1989 and saw this beautiful club,” she said. “It was a dream that maybe one day I’ll become a member. Now I am a captain of the platform team.”
The next event in the 125th anniversary series will be a tournament on June 11 to commemorate the day the first three dirt tennis courts opened in 1892.
“Festivities will include a grass court round robin, a wooden racquet tournament, prizes for the best dressed and best hats, and more period drinks and nibbles,” said Polunina.